Land disputes are becoming an increasing problem, especially in the savannah lowland: home to various categories of livestock farmers. About 80 Kilometres east of Kigali is the Eastern Province. It is a vast region with substantial economic resources, but it is at the centre of what could be termed as the worst of the country’s land wrangles. Thirteen years ago, a big portion of the savannah land belonged to Akagera National Park. Later, it was given returnees, especially from neighbourhood countries. Several returnees who got plots of land in that area were cattle keepers who prefer to keep big herds of cattle that need big chunks of land to pasture.
Livestock farmers are known for their habits of fencing off big lands, which creates a room for some to grab public land not belonging to them. This is obvious in the districts of Nyagatare, Gatsibo and Kayonza. Individuals with big farmlands are reportedly acquiring them through shady deals. That’s why President Paul Kagame has commissioned a team composed of civil and military officials to investigate. The president has set the deadline for sorting out land wrangles as the end of the year. It will help end a battle that began over a decade ago. According to the 1996 land regulation, the 1959 returnees were required to receive land as prescribed by Arusha Peace Accord. That regulation is why land in Akagera National Park was handed over to assist in the resettlement of landless returnees. But many are still without land. High status returnees have plots, while many peasants are without. Since 1996, what was supposed to be a fair distribution of land has turned into a never-ending dispute that has prompted reassessment of legal tenancy. With the president ordering the formation of new commission to reassess land ownership, many landless peasants are starting to believe that their concerns may be rising up the national agenda. Ends